Donald Fagen

I.G.Y.

Composed by Donald Fagen

Song Review by

The opening track and first single from Donald Fagen's solo debut, "I.G.Y. (International Geophysical Year)" is a dryly ironic take on the prevailing optimism of the late '50s. The International Geophysical Year -- 1958, to be precise -- was a combination research project and public relations move by the world's scientists, who banded together to collect and share information across geographic boundaries. In terms of Fagen's lyrics, the I.G.Y. is the symbol of all the promises that science held in his Popular Mechanics youth: ordinary people traveling to permanent space stations, undersea high-speed rail travel between New York and Paris, solar-powered cities, etc. The irony, of course, comes in the payoff line, "Well, by '76, we'll be A-OK." As the song goes on, creepier elements insinuate themselves into Fagen's utopian vision, images of "a just machine to make big decisions/Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision" delivered with the same gee-whiz enthusiasm as the earlier verses. Musically, the song amplifies the future-perfect theme of the lyrics by counterpointing the jazzy unison horn riff at the melody's center with the sort of theremin-like electronic squeals that would be all over the soundtrack to a late-'50s drive-in science fiction flick, or an album of forbidding electronic "music of the future" from the same period; ironically, by the song's 1982 release, sounds that would have seemed freakishly alien in 1958 were simply another element of mainstream pop music.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Nightfly 1982 Warner Bros. 6:03
Pop Classics: The Long Versions, Vol. 3 1997
Various Artists
Arcade Music
Back to the 80's: The Long Versions, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 6:03
Best Hit 80's 2005
Various Artists
WEA
The Nightfly Trilogy 2007 Warner Bros.
No Image 2007
Various Artists
WEA/Bose 6:05
Cheap Xmas: Donald Fagen Complete 2012 Reprise 6:03
blue highlight denotes editor's pick